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[VIDEO VAULT]

by Mark Burger

MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): The classic Agatha Christie whodunit receives elaborate, elegant, suspenseful treatment in this three-part BBC mini-series adapted by Sarah Phelps and aired earlier this year on Lifetime.

The set-up is familiar: Ten strangers are brought together on remote Soldier Island by a host they have never met – one “U.N. Owen” (hmmmm —). It transpires that they have been assembled for a reason and that “Mr. Owen” is one among them, which becomes very clear when each guest meets an untimely end, with the survivors beginning to suspect one another as their number further diminishes.

The ensemble cast could hardly be bettered: Sam Neill, Charles Dance, Miranda Richardson, Douglas Booth, Aidan Turner, Anna Maxwell Martin, Maeve Dermody, Noah Taylor, Burn Gorman and Toby Stephens (especially good as the increasingly paranoid Dr. Armstrong).

Some purists may question stretching the scope and length of the story. There’s a bit more psychology and back-story to the characters, a bit more profanity, a bit more melodrama, and quite a bit more blood – yet it remains faithful to the source material, right down to Christie’s original denouement. This version of And Then There Were None ranks very high on the list of Christie adaptations. It does full justice to Dame Agatha’s work.

The DVD and Blu-ray each retail for $34.99 and both include bonus features. ***½

ALSO AVAILABLE

“ANTIBALAS – LIVE FROM THE HOUSE OF SOUL” (Daptone Records/MVD Entertainment Group): The title tells all in Phil DiFiore’s concert documentary showcasing the 12-piece “Afrobeat” ensemble as they strut their stuff, available on DVD ($16.95 retail).

BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Mad scientist Jeffrey Combs and sane-but-shaky scientist Bruce Abbott return in this fair 1990 follow-up to the 1985 cult hit loosely based on HP Lovecraft’s classic tale of scientific experimentation gone wrong (and sometimes wacky), with Kathleen Kinmont the statuesque bride in question. Brian Yuzna, the first film’s producer, contributed to the screenplay and assumed the directorial reins. The limited-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) includes multiple audio commentaries, original featurette, retrospective interviews and more. **

“DEATH WALKS TWICE: TWO FILMS BY LUCIANO ERCOLI” (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A self-explanatory, limited-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($69.95 retail) of two giallo thrillers produced and directed by Luciano Ercoli (1929-2015), both starring Susan Scott (AKA Nieves Navarro) as a damsel in distress: Death Walks on High Heels (1971) and Death Walks at Midnight (1972), both replete with special features including audio commentaries, retrospective interviews, introductions by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, and more.

“DOMINION CREEK” (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): A two-DVD collection ($39.99 retail) of all four episodes from the inaugural 2015 season of the Irish-produced Western series (originally titled “An Klondike”), which dramatizes the efforts of three brothers (Owen McDonnell, Sean T.O. Meallaigh and Dara Devaney) who migrate to the Yukon Territory in 1897 during the Klondike gold rush seeking their fortune.

EARTHRISE (Indie Rights/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/producer/editor/sound designer/director Glenn Payne’s award-winning sci-fi thriller faintly echoes Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 classic Solaris, as three astronauts (blandly played by Casey Dillard, Meaghin Burke and Greg Earnest) begin experiencing strange hallucinations that threaten their return voyage to Earth. Talky and tedious, and the low budget hinders its ambitions. *½

FATAL BEAUTY (Olive Films): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of one of Whoopi Goldberg’s worst vehicles, this trashy, sometimes ugly 1987 shoot-’em-up pits her and bodyguard Sam Elliott (who tries hard) against drug lord Harris Yulin (who deserves better). After scoring with his 1985 directorial debut Fright Night, Tom Holland’s career lost traction here. Also on hand (and wasted): John P. Ryan, Ruben Blades, Brad Dourif, Jennifer Warren, James LeGros and Charles Hallahan. Rated R. ½

THE FOOL (Olive Films): Yury Bykov’s award-winning Russian-language drama (originally titled Durak) stars Artyom Bystrov in the title role, a hard-working plumber who suddenly decides to take on the corrupt political system as he tries to help the residents of a tenement on the verge of imminent collapse, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).

HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD (Kino Lorber): Writer/director Jerry Rothwell’s award-winning documentary feature celebrates “eco-hero” Robert Hunter and the 40-year history of Greenpeace, from its earliest origins to its present-day impact, available on DVD ($29.95 retail).

JESS & JAMES (TLA Releasing): Boy meets boy in writer/director Santiago Giralt’s Argentinian drama starring Martin Karich and Nicolas Romeo in the title roles. In Spanish with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $24.99.

“JESS FRANCO COLLECTOR’S EDITIONS” (Blue Underground): A pair of soft-core sexploitation romps ostensibly based on the works of the Marquis de Sade and “adapted,” as it were, by cult filmmaker Jess Franco (1930-2013): Justine (1969) boasts a star-studded cast including Rowina Power (Tyrone’s daughter) in the title role, Klaus Kinski (as de Sade), Mercedes McCambridge, Akim Tamiroff and Jack Palance; 1970’s Eugenie (AKA De Sade ’70), apparently based on de Sade’s Philosophy in the Boudoir, stars Marie Liljedahl in the title role and Christopher Lee (who claimed he didn’t know what it was about!). Each film is fully restored – to its original glory? – and each comes in a three-disc edition (DVD, Blu-ray, CD of Bruno Nicolai’s score), each $39.98 retail.

KING OF THE GYPSIES (Olive Films): In his 1978 screen debut, Eric Roberts plays the title role in this overheated melodrama “suggested” by Peter Maas’ best-seller, presented by the inimitable Dino De Laurentiis, boasting Sven Nykvist’s gorgeous cinematography and an all-star cast, although some are amusingly miscast: Sterling Hayden, Susan Sarandon, Judd Hirsch, Shelley Winters, Annie Potts, Brooke Shields, Annette O’Toole and Michael V. Gazzo. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R. **

“KINO RESTORATIONS” (Kino Classics): The groundbreaking 1926 Robert Flaherty documentary Moana With Sound and the 1931 Flaherty/F.W. Murnau collaboration Tabu: A Story of the South Seas, which won an Oscar for Floyd Crosby’s cinematography and was Murnau’s final film (he died during post-production) have been fully restored and come replete with special features (including shorts and vintage footage) on DVD (each $24.95 retail) and Blu-ray (each $29.95 retail).

LITTLE DEAD ROTTING HOOD (The Asylum/Cinedigm): It doesn’t take a full moon for wolves to turn big and bad in this standard-issue shocker that riffs (none too successfully) the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, with Bianca A. Santos in the title role, backed by Eric Balfour, Patrick Muldoon, Heather Tom, Romeo Miller (AKA Lil’ Romeo), and a crimson-caped Marina Sirtis. *

“MIDWINTER OF THE SPIRIT” (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Based on Phil Rickman’s best-selling novel, this three-part ITV mini-series stars Anna Maxwell Martin as a widowed small-town vicar and “exorcist-in-training,” whose expertise proves useful – and perhaps risky – when she is called upon to assist in ta murder investigation. David Threlfall plays Martin’s caustic mentor, Sally Messham her rebellious teen daughter, and the cast includes Kate Dickie, Nicholas Pnnock, Siobhan Finneran and Leila Mimmack. The DVD retails for $34.99.

PARTISAN (Well Go USA Entertainment): Writer/director Ariel Kleimain’s award-winning debut feature starring Vincent Cassel as a cult leader who trains children to become assassins – until he is challenged by a rebellious “pupil” (newcomer Jeremy Chabriel). The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.

PAULO COELHO’S BEST STORY (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Ravel Andrade (younger) and Julio Andrade (older) portray Brazilian-born, best-selling author Paulo Coelho, whose works include The Alchemist and The Pilgrimage, in director Daniel Augusto’s biographical drama (originally titled Nao Pare na pista and also known as The Pilgrim). In Portuguese and Spanish with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $29.95.

“PRETTY LITTLE LIARS”: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON (Warner Home Video): The deception deepens and the mystery mounts in the seemingly bucolic Pennsylvania burg of Rosewood, in all 21 episodes from the 2015-’16 season of the award-winning ABC Family drama based on Sara Shepard’s best-selling novels, available on DVD ($49.99 retail), replete with bonus content for series fans.

“PRISONERS’ WIVES”: COMPLETE COLLECTION (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): A four-DVD collection ($59.99 retail) of all 10 episodes from the 2012 (six episodes) and 2013 (four episodes) seasons of the popular BBC drama series focusing on the struggles of contemporary women whose husbands, fathers, brothers and sons have been incarcerated in prison. The ensemble cast includes Polly Walker, Emma Rigby, Pippa Haywood, Natalie Gavin, Sally Carman, Karla Crome, Iain Glen, Adrian Rawlins and David Bradley.

“SILICON VALLEY”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (HBO): The quest for high-tech riches continues in all 10 episodes from the 2015 season of the acclaimed HBO comedy series, with an ensemble cast headed by Thomas Middleditch, TJ Miller, Josh Brener, Martin Starr and Amanda Crew. Emmy winner for Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Program (half-hour or less) and Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series, with five additional nominations including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. The DVD retails for $26.95, the Blu-ray for $34.98 – both replete with bonus features.

THE VESUVIUS XPERIMENT (Alpha New Cinema): Former teen auteur Joshua Kennedy (he’s 20 now) again pays tribute to ’50s sci-fi with this affectionate low-budget shocker send-up in which he plays a scientist whose genetic tinkering yields — unfortunate results. The DVD ($7.98 retail) includes bonus features and Ryan Lengyel’s 2012 stop-motion monster short The Beast from 20 Zillion Years Ago. **½

VOODOO MAN (Olive Films): Horror favorites Bela Lugosi, John Carradine and George Zucco join forces in this low-budget 1944 seven-day wonder directed by prolific B-movie veteran William Beaudine, whose nickname was “One Shot” (guess why). Campy fun for genre fans and nostalgia buffs, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail). **

(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2016, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “mailto:marksburger@yahoo.com”marksburger@yahoo.com

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